Brenda Drew has found a home in the only organization SDSU Black LGBTQIA+. They now benefit the community in a noteworthy way.
Brenda Drew arrived at SDSU in 2018 looking for a place to find solidarity and family in San Diego’s LGBTQIA+ community.
Drew, who identifies as queer and non-binary, grew up in a so-called “ultra-conservative, religious black family” where they often had to hide their true, authentic selves.
The Drews found their home at BlacQ Space, SDSU’s only black LGBTQIA+ organization.
Four years and one pandemic later, Drew is helping the next generation of queer students find a safe space to thrive while at SDSU.
Drew is currently the President and Chief Programming Officer of BlacQ Space, works at the SDSU Pride Center and has been recognized as a member of the Royal Family at the 2021 Homecoming Court for their leadership and work on campus.
“I really owe a lot to BlacQ Space,” Drew said, holding back tears. “There is so much love there. The people in this space believe in giving back to the community. I believe in this community.”
Drew, a Chula Vista native who attended Hilltop High School, said they knew they were homosexual from a young age, citing Santana and Brittany’s fictional relationship on Glee as the moment they found out.
Growing up, Drew leaned on her older sister, who also identifies as a queer, role model and confidant.
“She played a huge role in that by making me feel like it’s okay to be who you are and not try to strangle yourself to meet a standard that’s not for you,” Drew said.
Drew, who is known for her bright positivity, joined the BlacQ space in the fall of 2019, a semester before students moved to distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BlacQ Space was founded in 2017 as a discussion group and student organization dedicated to promoting community dialogue and healing of black sexual and gender identity through the concept of LGBTQIA+, its founder said. Amber St. James. A year later, it became a recognized student organization.
“I was lucky enough to spend a semester in person, really connecting with a lot of them, solidifying myself in the community before the pandemic so I had a support network to connect to during the pandemic,” Drew said. “They gave me a lot of love and resources that I wouldn’t necessarily have had access to if I hadn’t met them before the pandemic hit.”
Throughout the pandemic, Drew has been able to stay in touch with the community by working at The Pride Center as a community programmer, helping organize virtual events.
Kay Wongthe Pride Center coordinator, who has worked with Drew for the past two years, called Drew the “cornerstone” of the university.
“I met Brenda in my sophomore year at SDSU and immediately knew they had a light and energy that was so special and rare,” Wong said. “Since then, Brenda has been the cornerstone of this institution. They not only support LGBTQIA+ students on and off campus, but they care and love everyone they meet.”
Back on campus, Drew wants to help the next generation of LGBTQIA+ students in the same way their mentors helped them find a home on campus.
“One of our members was the very first person I met at State and they really helped me establish myself in BlacQ Space and Pride Center and I owe a lot of my growth to them,” Drew said. “Looking at my experience, I hope that while I’m on the staff, I’ll be that for someone else.”
That person was St. James, a drag queen icon and activist who graduated from SDSU in 2020 and is also a founding member of the Sisters of St. James Productions and the mother of the Haus of St. James.
Upon meeting Drew St. James saw “such an amazing light and such a caring soul, who could have been such a wonderful and empathetic leader. The fact that I saw them now confirmed my initial thoughts about them.
Drew, a fourth-year history and African studies student, wants to become a history teacher or perhaps a college professor “maybe on staff.”
But Drew has another ambitious long-term goal: to return to SDSU as director of the Pride Center.
“I really want to do it, God willing,” Drew said. “I know it’s going to be a long process and who knows, maybe the position won’t be open when I’m ready for it, but that’s my ultimate goal.”
Drew’s supporters believe they will achieve their goal.
“To be able to see Brenda achieve her goal and be able to come back to give back to the space I know they hold so dear would be such an amazing and precious full circle moment,” said St. James.